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How Many Lumens Do I Really Need?

First off, lets get familiar with what a lumen actually is. The definition of a lumen is a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted by a source. It is a pretty complex equation to find out exactly how many lumens a flashlight is. Mathematics aside, the best way to think of lumens is to compare them to birthday candles. If you have 1 candle 1 foot away from your face, it emits the same amount of light as 1 lumen. If you have 1000 lit candles, that is going to be equal to 1000 lumens. Don’t let your lumen-ego get the best of you. A high quality reflector used in a 1 lumen flashlight can out perform a 10 lumen flashlight that has a cheap reflector or no reflector at all. We won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of reflectors, but quality does play a role in the light distance of a torch. Generally, the more lumens that you have, the farther your light will travel. Keep in mind the more lumens used in a flashlight the shorter its battery life. It comes down to this:  Do you truly need a flashlight with thousands of lumens? The answer simply is….maybe. The job that you plan to perform with the flashlight depends on how many lumens you will really need. If you are involved in search and rescue, you will obviously need more lumens than a flashlight that is just going to be used in your home when the power goes out. When you are out looking for flashlights, you will find that the bulk of them are from 10 to 100 lumens. For example, the Fenix TK7has 2200 lumens:

  Given the  high amount of lumens, this flashlight is capable of throwing a beam about 720 meters. If you are unfamiliar with how far that is, it is just under half a mile. The only job I can think of with a beam like this is if you are looking for someone lost on the woods, like someone involved in search and rescue parties.

When looking for a flashlight that is going to be used in your home for times like when the power is out, a flashlight with about 10-25 lumens will more than suffice. Here is a great example of a flashlight that is good to have around your home to light things up a bit. It’s the LED Lenser P2 LED Flashlight (13 Lumens):

What makes this great for household use is the fact that is a very compact light is is just under 4 inches in length making it easy to store in a drawer or anywhere else you want it place it in your home. It has 13 lumens, which isn’t super bright, but it will definitely do it’s job in the home. Another great thing about this light is that it weighs just over one ounce. The beam that this light throws is roughly 23 meters long (about 65 feet).

Now if you are looking for a torch to take camping with you, you are going to need a some more lumens. Any flashlight that I take with me camping ranges from 35-60 lumens. Obviously, if you hiking in the dark, you might want a a light with closer to 60 lumens. A great example of a light to take camping with you is the Schrade Tough Small Tactical LED Flashlight STF3 (45 Lumens):

This flashlight has a high-powered LED bulb in it with a high and low mode setting. Having different settings allows you to have control of the flashlights battery usage. Whether or not you use them is up to you, but it’s convenient having options. The body of this torch is very tough. It’s made out of anodized T6061 aircraft aluminum which translates into a lightweight flashlight. The best thing about this light (in my opinion) is that you don’t have to buy any fancy batteries for it. It runs off of 1 AAA battery.

Now, if you want something that can do it all, you won’t need much more than 100 lumens. Police officers usually carry a flashlight that has at least 90 lumens. If you are looking for something fairly similar to what some of them might carry, the Klarus XT1A High Performance LED Flashlight Cree XP-G R5 (150 Lumens) is your flashlight:

This is part of the Extreme Tactical line of flashlights from Klarus. This is a very compact yet very powerful flashlight. It is just under 5 inches, but puts out 150 lumens. There are 4 different settings ranging from high to low and a disorienting strobe setting. This light is very easy to operate and is guaranteed to light your way. My favorite thing about this flashlight is that is takes AA batteries.

Quite frankly, you don’t need the brightest flashlight on the block (even though that’s sometimes fun to have anyway). I would say that the brightest flashlight that I would ever get ranges from 30-150 lumens. I don’t have much use with anything more powerful, even though they are fun to have anyways.

Let me know what flashlights you use and for what purpose.

8 thoughts on “How Many Lumens Do I Really Need?

  1. What are your views assessments on the M7 torch? I think it has 225 lumens. There is a rechargeable version too! What would you choose the battery or rechargeable? Please your answers will be valuable thanks

  2. Hey Martin!
    I asked someone here at Blade Hq’s who’s pretty familiar with that LED for his opinion on that, and here’s what to say:

    “The M7 is a great light to go with and you’ve got plenty of power clocking in between 210 and 220 lumens. Lenser is a great company who stands behind their products 100%. Between the rechargeable version and the non-rechargeable version, I think that comes down to personal preference. There are definitely some +’s and -‘s to consider with either one. Plus side of rechargeable, you don’t need to buy a bunch of batteries, charge it up and you’re good. Non rechargeable version, it’s easy to carry around multiple batteries to switch out on the fly. I know for me personally in my emergency bags I put flashlights in them that use batteries that are easily accessible. This way I don’t have to worry about finding a power source to recharge my light. Again it does come to personal preference.”

    I hope that helps. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. I found this site because I’m looking for a light less expensive than a sungun used in auto detailing (swirl correction). I was reading a site where the people were talking about a spotlight from Rays Outdoors in Australia (520 lumen with 3 LED’s) being a suitable substitute. As I live in Perth I went to Rays to check it out, they did not have this light. The closest I could find was a 450 lumen with the 3 LED’s made by Wild Country for $89 AU.

    I have no idea if this light would serve the purpose of showing swirl in paint. Is there something you could possibly suggest to do the job.

  4. Unfortunately we do not have that answer. As we do not have any paint artists nearby we do not know what lighting would be best specifically for art. If you have any other questions regarding flashlights, please let us know and hopefully we’ll be able to help you out.

  5. I’m looking for nesting turtles and turtle tracks on the beach at night.
    Any suggestions as to a good red light flashlight?
    Thank you.

  6. Renee-

    What an interesting use of LED lights. We always love hearing new and unique ways people are using lights. As for what light to use, hopefully we can help you out. It’s a bit too much info to put in this box, but I will do a separate blog post dedicated entirely to this topic. It’s such a unique topic I think people would enjoy hearing about it. Keep an eye on our page and I will try to have it posted later today. I’ll do my best to answer your question within the blog. Thanks again.

  7. I picked up a Coleman LED flashlight with 700 lumens. I use for fishing. From a 15′ above the water it will shine to the bottom of 4′ of water. A great way to spy on striper-bass! The flashlight has a rugged feel of aluminum and a beam that can be focused or diffused to cover more area. I love it. I think I paid about $40 at walmart.

  8. I have been in the auto body business 40 years or so. The worst or in your case the best light for showing swirl marks is overhead floresant lighting. Getting them completely out, especially black, can be a daunting task.

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